The freelancer vs. agency conundrum is not new. If you’re a business that wants to get started with content marketing, you have several options:
- You can leverage your in-house marketing department to start creating content
- You can hire a freelancers to start creating content, or
- You can hire a niche content marketing agency to start creating content
Here’s the rub. We’ve already talked about how “we can do it alone” is one of the top lies businesses tell themselves about content marketing, so #1 is typically a pipe dream for most companies. Even Fortune 100 companies tend to have gaps in their domain expertise when it comes to content marketing. SMBs, in particular, should utilize some form of outside expertise, even if just to augment in-house teams.
That leaves options #2 and #3, which can be a real toss-up for businesses big and small. It’s an age-old question: freelancer vs. agency.
Let me walk you through why it’s an easier decision than you think.
Working with a Freelancer
Hiring a freelancer can be a great decision for companies looking for content development help. Freelancers are often a good fit for businesses operating in industries that are not regulated and that do not have a lot of highly technical jargon or complex models to understand. Let’s look at some of the benefits of working with a freelancer.
Working with a freelancer can be appealing to smaller businesses looking for help with content marketing. Freelancers are widely available and can usually be leveraged for a manageable cost. In fact, that’s one of the top reasons businesses choose to work with a freelancer vs. agency. Working with freelancers can often be more cost-effective when you consider the additional costs of hiring a full-time employee to do the same job (benefits, salaries during low workload periods, etc.).
Freelancers are flexible. They can do almost anything—at a price. While full-time employees are often limited to the 9 to 5 time clock, freelancers are often willing to do round-the-clock work or rush work, though it may come at a steeper fee. That said, it can be comforting knowing that you have someone that can take on emergency work if you get into a jam.
While it can be tempting to compare the cost of working with a freelancer vs. hiring an in-house staff member, it is comparing apples to oranges. In many cases, freelancers actually charge higher hourly rates that negate the “savings” you estimated when comparing to an in-house team member.
Additionally, freelancers are often juggling multiple projects at one time, meaning that your project is “just another project.” When it comes to bandwidth in the freelancer vs. agency battle, the latter almost always wins. With freelancers stretching themselves thin to rake in as much as they can, it can leave clients feeling neglected and may result in projects not getting the love they deserve.
Other Freelancer Considerations
Aside from the logistical differences, it’s rare that you’ll find a freelancer that has everything you need to execute an end-to-end content marketing program. More importantly, it could be difficult to connect with a freelancer that truly understands your corner of the market the way you do.
Most freelancers specialize or have an industry focus. Beware of anyone that says that have experience across “all industries”. Experience does not equal expertise, and anyone that you’re entrusting with your brand name and reputation should be able to demonstrate some concrete expertise in your specific arena.
Finding a freelancer with expertise in your specific field may be easier for some than others. More technical fields will likely have a harder time finding someone with an authoritative command of industry jargon and concepts than, say, a business in the health & wellness sector.
It doesn’t just stop at domain expertise, either. Finding a freelancer with the necessary knowledge is one thing, but finding one with the knowledge and the ability to turn complex ideas into digestible and compelling content is a whole other thing. What’s more, many businesses typically find that these freelancers charge rates that are at the extreme end of the spectrum. Many charge rates that rival agencies.
The question then becomes: Do you hire an expensive freelancer, knowing you’ll get quality content but nothing else or do you hire an agency for a congruent rate, with the ability to leverage additional resources and skill sets (design, strategy, SEO, etc.) as needed?
Working With a Niche Content Marketing Agency
At the end of the day, content serves a purpose. It may be to drive awareness, to engage your audience, to generate leads, or to support sales teams. These purposes are all geared towards the same thing—turning prospects into clients and customers.
In this digital era, finding or training excellent content creators isn’t enough. Achieving the end result of more customers requires a partner with deep industry knowledge as well as an understanding of your business’ unique buyer’s journey.
For industries like Fintech, this can be a challenge. Financial Services requires a specific type of knowledge as a prerequisite for creating any marketing content. Add to that the regulations and other niche knowledge points, and it becomes clear that finding one person that can harness this information and massage it into meaningful content is a fishing expedition in a very, very small—and expensive—pond.
Working with an agency, however, typically means more bang for your buck. You have access to more professionals with broader skill sets for, in some cases, a similar price point as one highly specialized freelancer. But any old agency will not do. Just as with the freelancer conundrum, you should work to find a niche content marketing agency that specializes in your industry/sector. This is the only way to fill the tall order of deep industry knowledge, high quality content production, and content marketing expertise.
Freelancer vs. Agency: And the Answer Is?
With a niche agency, you can not only get great writing and content development, but knowledge of how to apply and distribute that content to fulfill business objectives for your unique business/industry.
Look at your specific content marketing needs as well as the complexity and breadth of knowledge within your industry. In addition to budget, these are going to be determining factors in your decision to work with a freelancer or a niche content marketing agency to achieve your marketing goals and overall business objectives.